Guillaume-Louis Pécour and La Feste de Chantilly, 1688

Guillaume-Louis Pécour is best known in the early dance world for his numerous and often magnificent dances for the ballroom and the stage, many of the latter being created for productions at the Paris Opéra. Thanks to the work of Jérôme de la Gorce we know much about Pécour’s background and career as well as his dance interests, but one source which has not received much attention yet is a detailed description of the extraordinary feast put on at the chateau of Chantilly by Henry Jules, the new Prince of Bourbon-Condé (his father, Le Grand Condé, having died a year or so earlier), for the eight-day visit of Monseigneur le Dauphin in 1688.  The description makes it clear that, along with the wolf and deer hunts, visits to the menagerie and the maze, opera in the orangery (two works by Paulo Lorenzani with dances devised by Pécour), the feasting and banquets, there was also a tremendous open-air divertissement involving a hundred and fifty singers, dancers and acrobats, for which  Lully’s son Jean-Baptiste junior provided the music, Jean Berain the costumes, and Pécour all the dances – indeed he may well have stage-managed the entire event. Since he had only taken over the management of court ballets from Pierre Beauchamps the previous year, the Chantilly entertainments may well have been the first major event that Pécour undertook in his new capacity as ‘Danseur ordinaire des ballets de Sa Majesté’. Although no choreography survives for the event, the extant descriptions gives a good idea of how ambitious and sumptuous an event was devised in order to impress the highest ranks of society.

Jennifer Thorp
Author affiliation
New College, University of Oxford